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About Sherry Sommer

I grew up in southeast Denver and have lived in Boulder County (first Boulder and now Louisville) for 33 years. Colorado has changed a lot in the past 60 years, (surprise!) but many constants make this place home: Gorgeous and ever changing clouds, bright blue and wide open skies, trees and gardens flourishing in a dry climate, family roots, South Church... I've certainly changed over the years, and am thankful beyond words for the the ever present and faithful love of God, no matter what the circumstances. The months beginning in January, 2022, were quite a challenge: Caring for my father, Sam Masoudi, dealing with the aftermath of the Marshall Fire, and community engagement kept me fully alert and working! Now, with the passing of my father and an empty nest, I'm in a new phase of life. I'm eagerly anticipating the challenges and surprises I know will be in store! Being on the devotional team has added so my to my life and I look forward to writing and learning more and more.

Learning to See Jesus 

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. I Corinthians 13:12 


I’ve always sensed that Jesus was alive and that He was guiding me. At the same time,  life has been a process of learning more about who He really is. For me, this process reminds me of going to the optometrist. The doctor starts with my
previous correction and then refines it until I’m able to enjoy beauty, read, and function normally.  I’ll never experience 20/20 vision but I’m able to see so much better than I naturally could. Walking with Jesus over a lifetime has been like that for me.

Jesus Meets Me Where I am

My uncorrected vision is 20/800. I can see vaguely but can’t function. (Even the doctor tells me my eyesight “isn’t great.”) As bad as my natural eyesight is, the doctor is able to correct my vision to what it needs to be. In the same way, Jesus has met me where I have been and has led me to where I needed to be.

Which is clearer, a or b ?

Jesus Shows Himself in Others

When I was a child, I saw Jesus as He related to me.  As I’ve grown, I’ve seen Jesus in relation to all believers. Seeing Jesus transforming other believers has been a very  precious gift.

Learning to See Takes Trial and Error

Learning to see Jesus more clearly hasn’t progressed in a perfectly straight line. When the doctor asks, “Is one or two better?”  I sometimes doubt that my answer is correct, and can get off track. Sometimes bumps in life have been really hard, and I’ve reverted to former ways of seeing — which reminds me of times I’ve lost my glasses and had to  make do with an older pair.  Like the doctor, Jesus is patient, allowing me to make choices.  I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but, as a result,  I’ve learned to see more clearly.

The Best is Yet to Come

Thanks to Jesus’s guidance and the gift of sight he’s given me, I can marvel at just how wonderful He is.  Scripture promises that we have much more to look forward to: 

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. We know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  I John 3:2 NIV


“Thank you, God, for sending Jesus, who gives us healing and hope in this world. Thank you that we can be confident that, one day, we will see you exactly as you are and that we will be like you.“   

by Sherry Sommer

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Learning to See Jesus 2024-05-11T10:54:13-06:00

Getting from Point “a” to Point ”b”

My friend Martha and I have a lot in common — we’re both believers,  we both have an adventurous streak, and we share a truly terrible sense of direction.
We swap stories of amazing feats of getting lost, even when we have a map or phone with an interactive map at hand. 

Most people are better at getting from point “a” to point ”b” than either of us are. However, when it comes to walking the path of life with faith, all people
get confused and turned around along the way. It’s the human condition to misunderstand God’s character when we see injustice or experience harsh circumstances. We may think God is a punishing and cruel overlord or that He just doesn’t care.  It might seem that we’re in a battle of darkness and light and that the outcome is uncertain. 

Fortunately for us, God hasn’t just left us with a map; He sent us his son, Jesus, to help us find our way. The book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus doesn’t just have a family resemblance to God — He is exactly like his father.

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways,  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.  The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. Hebrews 1:3

I’ve loved God all of my life, but this still comes as a wonderful revelation when I think of it:  God isn’t distant; He cares for us in exactly the same way and to the same degree that Jesus did. Although Jesus lived a fully human life and died a human death, yet he was with God at creation and lives eternally through the resurrection. In Hebrews 1: 10-12, in the NIV, He also says, 

“In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth,
    and the heavens are the work of your hands.

They will perish, but you remain;
    they will all wear out like a garment.

You will roll them up like a robe;
    like a garment they will be changed.
But you remain the same,
    and your years will never end.”  

 

That’s amazing!

 When we see or experience injustice and when life is difficult, we can get worn down and our faith and trust in God can waver. It can seem like God either doesn’t love us or that He’s not strong enough to protect us.  I love this passage from John 1 because it reminds me that God’s love, light, and goodness shown through Jesus, are  unimaginably great, and nothing can dim or extinguish them:

 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5

by Sherry Sommer

Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.

Getting from Point “a” to Point ”b”2024-05-04T12:07:57-06:00

Ease of Identifying with Christian Faith – Dims the Spark?

by Sherry Sommer

Throughout decades of being a Christian, I’ve grown in some churches and have gotten frustrated and cynical in others. Just because well meaning people meet in a “Church” building that doesn’t mean you’ll find fellowship with Christ centered believers there. 

Christ is the only foundation of true Christian fellowship. Nothing can be added to and nothing can be subtracted from the gospel.  Believers are told not to judge others; and, at the same time, we are commanded to be discerning as we go out into the world. Fortunately, the Bible speaks about churches that are not Christ centered; knowing that this is not a new phenomena, can help us understand what we’re encountering. 

Lukewarm Belief

In the book of Revelation, John describes a vision of Christ’s judgment of seven churches. The church of Laodicea is wealthy, but spiritually lukewarm, and unaware that it’s coming up short:  

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” Revelation 3:15-16

Why so busy?

Also in Revelation, John describes the church at Ephesus, which is busy doing good works but has lost it’s first love for Christ: 

“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.”  Revelation  2:2-3

Who Are We Following?

Sometimes churches lose their way by following a leader, denomination, other authorities or even heresies rather than putting Christ first. Paul had to deal with this kind of division as well:

One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?  I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius,  so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.)  For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. I Corinthians 1:12b-17

Who Matters?

Many churches invest too much in themselves rather than acting as a conduit for God’s grace. I can’t think of Bible verses that fit this kind of situation. What this looks like in my experience, is churches that are social clubs more than places for spiritual redirection and growth. Another version is churches where the most long-time members have a special kind of authority, insider knowledge that newcomers can never attain. Finally, some churches make having elaborate buildings more important than outreach.

No church is perfect, but it is important to know that churches can be centered around things other than Christ. We are called to be discerning and to know that our number one priority needs to be a growing faith in Christ, not loyalty to any institution or organization. I’m so thankful that South Fellowship has been reliable for decades. I also found the Protestant churches in France to be reliably Christ centered — perhaps because they are marginalized in that culture. Here in the US, finding Christ centered churches can be difficult.  Some say that the church in the US is under attack, but it’s actually much easier to be a Christian here than in most other countries.  The ease of identifying with the Christian faith seems to dim the spark of Christ’s love in many churches. That can make people doubt if God really cares about them. If you’ve had experiences in a church that is off center, this is a matter that grieves God. We are saved by grace, but we also need to continually grow and learn; that happens fully in a Christ centered church. 

Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.

Ease of Identifying with Christian Faith – Dims the Spark?2024-04-28T13:57:12-06:00

Trusting God in the Everyday

Sherry Sommer


I like how Alex suggested that we think of faith as trust in God. I can relate to that because my faith journey has been a process of growing in trust. I’ve always loved to read and learn, question, and grow, so I learned to trust God and Jesus intellectually. I’ve been less trusting in applying my belief to everyday life. I’ve needed to learn to live out my faith with wisdom.  Relationships — with God, other people, and with myself — have helped me want to persevere in spite of the inevitable bumps and bruises.  

When I became a Christian, I thought I’d obey and God would make my path straight. However, trust was not automatic.  It’s no wonder; faith is not intuitive. The book of Hebews defines faith as “… confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1, NIV.)  Sometimes I would confuse faith with “being impulsive”. Other times I’d retreat like a turtle.  I’ve learned that learning to live by faith requires growing; and growing  involves making mistakes. 

Relationships with other believers have been an anchor as I’ve learned to walk by faith. Hebrews 10: 24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” I’ve found that the most encouraging Christians I know don’t see others as projects. Instead they welcome new people as friends. There is no greater gift a Christian can give to another than their friendship.

My relationship with the Holy Spirit was also essential in learning to trust God. Reading the Bible and Christian books, attending church, and serving were outward activities I did to grow in my faith. Those all are good things. What really sets Christianity apart from other religions and moral activities is that Jesus himself helps, teaches, and comforts us. 

Finally, I’ve learned that having a good relationship with myself is essential to trusting God.  In Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus says, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  I’ve learned that I need to love myself and treat myself gently in order to be able to love others. It has meant remembering  what Paul says in Ephesians 2:10,
“We
are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” God has created each one of us for a reason, because he cares about us. I’ve been learning that serving God doesn’t mean exhausting myself by saying yes to every request. There is so much freedom in learning to trust God “in the everyday”. 


Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.

Trusting God in the Everyday2024-04-20T19:36:51-06:00

Seeing Mary in Myself

Sherry Sommer

While reading the account of Mary Magdalene at Jesus’ tomb, today, I’ve been struck for the first time by how much I can identify with her. While Mary is reacting to a unique historical occurrence, I can relate to the way she processes her grief over Jesus’ death.

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.  They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,”
she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.  John 20:11-14

Mary, at the tomb, is so overwhelmed by grief that she doesn’t notice that the pair of strangers who question her are angels and that it is Jesus who is speaking to her.  The darkness of her grief turns her inward in pain, and obscures nearly all the light Jesus had brought to her life; but not all, however — she still calls Jesus “My Lord”. Friends tell me that I can bear difficult circumstances and challenges amazingly well, and I attribute that to my faith.  I do have my breaking point. When grief at injustice or human brokenness digs deep into my heart, I know intellectually that Jesus is my Lord and that he is the Lord of all. I feel like a wounded animal though, overwhelmed by pain.  It feels like Jesus has been taken away, even though I still believe He is Lord of all.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). John 20:15-16

When Jesus asks Mary why she’s crying, she doesn’t ask for better circumstances. Her response is that she wants to find Jesus.  When Jesus says Mary’s name, the horrible events she’s been through fade away, and all that matters is that He knows her and that He’s with her.   I’m also reminded that my circumstances can’t be relied on for happiness  when challenges are crushing and disorienting.   I’m reminded that stability and meaning in life are found in Christ alone.
When events are at their worst, what I really want is to find Jesus, to know that He’s with me. Experiencing God’s peace and comfort in the midst of hard times is the best experience I know. Sometimes, when I get overwhelmed by circumstances,  I subconsciously think I’ve disappointed Jesus, that my faith has failed somehow.  It’s good to be reminded that Jesus is compassionate, not disappointed, when my life seems overwhelming. 

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. John 20:17-18

Jesus doesn’t conclude the conversation with Mary by promising that He’s back to stay — instead, he tells her He’ll ascend to the Father. This could upset Mary, but instead she goes back to the disciples to share the news that she has seen Jesus. The amazing experience she had of seeing Jesus and having Him call her name is enough. She doesn’t have a list of questions or ask for reassurance that He will be back to stay. It’s not easy living in this “in between” world of contrasts — beauty and kindness preferred to brokenness, and cruelty — to name a few.  I can’t see Christ like Mary did, but He has left me with the  guidance of the Holy Spirit, within communities of fellow believers and with the reassurance that He knows everyone who calls His name.   

 

Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.

Seeing Mary in Myself2024-04-10T14:16:51-06:00

Trusting God’s Provision – the Best Way to Live

by Sherry Sommer

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.
You cannot serve both God and money.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body,
what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:24-26

I love how Aaron took Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and described how differently those needs are met by the world’s system of economics versus God’s kingdom. In the world’s system, individuals are responsible for providing for themselves. In God’s kingdom, we can trust that God will provide.  We don’t need
to fear, even though the world is complicated and there are so many things that we can’t control. We can know God will take care of us. God’s  provision is a reminder of his presence.  I have lived according to the world system of economics as well as God’s system. God’s system, hands down, has been the most stable and fulfilling way to live.

I grew up in an industrious family, and I went to schools where the world’s view of economics was dominant. I remember finding it strange that the wealthiest people seemed haunted by concerns about maintaining their family’s place in the social and economic hierarchy.  My childhood was spent wondering how anyone could spend time slaving and worrying when…well, just look around!  The world was so magical.  I believed that God would provide and that the Holy Spirit would guide me. 

When I graduated from college, Colorado was in a recession, and I started to panic and to question my childhood beliefs. Those voices alerting me to adopt the world’s economic system were loud and overwhelming. Although I was a Christian, I spent too much of my young adult  years wavering between trusting God and relying on my own effort. This was definitely not a good way to live. On the positive side, making a lot of mistakes gave me plenty of opportunities to learn.

Jesus told us not to be afraid, because we can trust him

Life is, by nature, something we can’t control. This is scary for everyone  — those who live in the world economic system and those who live by the kingdom values. My experience has been  that living by the world’s system is painful, unpredictable, and exhausting. When I give my concerns to God, asking him for help, I can be calm and peaceful. The world is still unpredictable, but Jesus has given me resilience and confidence because I know he will never leave me, and that he can be trusted. 

Listen to the Holy Spirit as a way of life

The Holy Spirit is an essential guide to living in God’s economy. This doesn’t mean constantly asking if every last little decision can be confirmed by the Spirit.  God wants us to make decisions based on our own thoughts and sense. This means we need to tune out the voices that tell us we are not enough for the task or that God has abandoned us. It means meditating on his word and praying as a way of life. 

I have found that I make the best decisions when I am calm and sensitive to the Spirit, and when I’m reflective and peaceful, and not in problem solving mode.  Here’s one example:  In 2011 we lived in Boulder, and Louisville seemed like a much better place to raise children. This move seemed impossible financially but I spent time resting in God, meditating on his word and praying. In the meantime, I also worked hard to make our house in Boulder a good home for my children.  After many months, I felt prompted to try again to find a house in Louisville.  As it turned out, the timing was excellent.  The market suddenly shifted and prices went up several thousand dollars.  I am so thankful for God’s provision: Moving greatly improved our lives  because we  found a more suitable home because our faith grew.

Trusting God’s economy can encourage others

Trusting God can help others who witness how God’s economy works. Remembering back to my studies in Paris, I met a wonderful Christian training to be a missionary.  She loved music, and prayed that God would provide an apartment where she could enjoy it. I admit  to doubting her prayers would be answered. Well, within a short time she had located two wonderful possibilities — one that had a beautiful piano, and one with a stereo and collection of classical music records. It’s so sweet to remember her and God’s provision in her life as she was seeking His kingdom. 

 Praying for what we need gives us opportunities to be surprised and to thank God

I always tell my children, when we ask God to provide, we have someone to thank, and that  is wonderful in itself.  When my son was four, we had very little money and needed some basic necessities. I made a list of what we needed and asked Samuel if he’d pray with me that God would provide. Within a short time, we were surprised and delighted by the way God answered all of our prayers.  If we had been able to go to the store and buy what we needed, we wouldn’t have stories to remember together. If we had enough money, we wouldn’t have had the joy of thanking God for his provision.

Thank you God, for providing what we need when we trust you. 

Better    https://youtu.be/cgpvCVkrV6M?feature=shared

Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.

Trusting God’s Provision – the Best Way to Live2024-03-24T19:24:26-06:00

Freedom 

by Sherry Sommer


When my father, a native of Shiraz, Iran,
* passed away a year ago, he left me some Persian carpets made of wool.  The carpets are beautifully and intricately designed, and each of the countless knots they’re made of is individually tied by hand. These works of art took years to create, and It’s important to be vigilant and to take care that moths don’t destroy them.  On the anniversary of my father’s birthday,  I put the carpets outside to vacuum and refresh them in the sun. Because my father loved to work and take care of things, it felt fitting to remember him in this way.  As I worked, I thought about these verses:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 NIV 

While I worked, I thought about how our possessions can be treasured but that they may decay slowly or be gone in an instant.  I saw this very graphically during the Marshall Fire in Louisville when 500 homes were burned to ashes. 

Cleaning carpets brought Jesus’ point home to me in a graphic way. We need to keep in mind that accumulating possessions comes with a price.  One reason I  enjoyed my work that sunny day was that I don’t have too many rugs to care for.  My task was manageable and was a joy, not a burden. I love how Proverbs describes “enough” as being between wealth and poverty:  

“Two things I ask of you, LORD;
    do not refuse me before I die:

 Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
    give me neither poverty nor riches,
    but give me only my daily bread.

 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
    and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’

Or I may become poor and steal,
    and so dishonor the name of my God.” Proverbs 30:7-9

Jesus isn’t prescribing the amount of possessions we need. He’s not saying that we make sure to get by with the very barest minimum to live. However,  possessions do become a distraction when we have more than we can use and can take care of. They can make us forget that we can only be secure to the extent that we trust in God alone.

I love that Jesus came to provide freedom. He is using a strong warning about possessions, not because he doesn’t want us to enjoy them, but because he loves us. He knows how easily people turn away from loving God and turn instead to things for security and satisfaction. He wants to provide for us, and wants us to remember that he is completely able to do so. In fact, as much as I treasure the gifts my father gave me, my life has been shaped much more by Heavenly Father’s consistent provision. I’ve rarely ever shopped for new clothing. God has provided what I’ve needed very inexpensively or for free. I enjoy what I have because I didn’t have to slave away to pay for expensive items. I wouldn’t lose too much if it was taken away (although I would be sad)!  When I get dressed, I am reminded of God’s constant provision. 

My favorite verses in the Bible  (Matthew 11:20-30,) describe the “unforced rhythms of grace” that Jesus promises we can walk in with him:

“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.  For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.  But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”  Luke 12:27-31

This is the freedom Jesus wants for us. Let’s pray that we as a body can live in this freedom. 

* Note: In 1959, the year my father immigrated from his country, Its ancient name of Persia was changed to Iran.  


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Freedom 2024-03-16T10:42:24-06:00

Fasting, Transformation and Justice 

Sherry Sommer

When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:16-17 (NIV)

Jesus talks about fasting as he does about giving and praying. He says “when you…”  He could say “when you fast” to his audience because it was a normal discipline in the ancient Jewish world. It’s not clear that fasting is required for modern day followers of  Jesus, and fasting is foreign to many of us, including me.  We can make Jesus’  teaching on fasting relevant to our situation by interpreting it as reinforcement, not to make a show of religious practices. However, there is another way to unpack his teaching.

Even though fasting was a customary practice for Jews in Jesus’ time, they lacked a full  understanding of it.  Apparently, the prevailing norm was abstaining from food while making a dramatic show of piety.  If we look at the book of Isaiah, we can see that this was not a new problem for the Jews. In Isaiah, the prophet criticizes shallow and transactional interpretations of fasting that sounded like:  “God, we will fast and you will reward us. What? We have fasted…why aren’t you rewarding us?” Isaiah points out that the sacrifices the Jews of that time were making didn’t address their heart issues. They thought they could fast  while mistreating their workers and fighting. Isaiah makes it clear that God could not be manipulated into producing blessings. He wanted transformed hearts and a people who cared for others.  

The prophet proposes that his audience fast, not just from food, but from being self centered and self absorbed. He asks that people work toward justice in their communities and to refrain from being judgemental and aimless. Properly practiced, Isaiah says fasting is not about being self focused at all.  It’s about saying no to something that we normally rely on, in order to realign our values.  Jesus’ way is to remember to care not only for our own needs but for the needs of others. 


Application

I’ve  been trying intermittent fasting in this season — which is eating during an eight hour window. I’ve found that it has helped declutter my days — with less time spent thinking about, preparing, and cleaning up after meals! I’m also trying to compress my screen time. This frees up so much time and brain power when I stick with it! 

Today I was reminded of Revelation 3:20: 

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person,
and
they with me.

Perhaps if we take the time to fast from food or other things we normally rely on, we can be freed up to hear Jesus. We can be refreshed and transformed by sharing the meal he provides.  

Pray about what God might teach you about fasting during this season of Lent. 

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
    Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
    and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out;
    they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
    and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
    and seem eager for God to come near them.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
    ‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
    and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
    and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
    and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
    and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
    only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
    a day acceptable to the LORD?”

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness] will go before you,
    and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: ‘Here am I.'”

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
    and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
    and the LORD’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
    and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
then you will find your joy in the LORD,
    and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
    and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. Isaiah 58

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Fasting, Transformation and Justice 2024-03-10T14:31:16-06:00

Forgiveness as a Way of life

by Sherry Sommer

Last week our devotional team talked about what Jesus says about forgiveness. 

Aaron compared people to unbalanced scales — a depiction that is simple and yet very accurate. The Bible teaches that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. That falling short means that we will all be hurt by others and hurt others. We long for justice, but there’s so much we don’t see or understand in ourselves and in the world around us. Without God’s help forgiveness isn’t possible. 

Jesus has high standards for forgiveness; he says we can’t hold anything against  anyone. Without God’s help, forgiveness may seem foolish to us. We might instinctively want to extract vengeance or sacrificially to carry the weight of our hurt.  We may even feel that being unforgiving will make the scales of our hearts or the hearts of others more balanced. Jesus is telling us to do the opposite of what our instincts tell us. We need to forgive everyone we might hold a grudge against: 

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Mark 11:25

To achieve forgiveness is far beyond human comprehension.  For a long time, it was really difficult for me even to understand what forgiveness was. I knew what it wasn’t — it wasn’t minimizing or enabling sin, or brushing it under the rug. My son once defined it as “Not letting how you’ve been sinned against dominate your thoughts or making it everyone else’s business.”  That seems reasonable.  Kathleen Petersen had a helpful insight in our meeting — she pointed out that Matthew 6:12 describes sin as a debt: 

 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6:12

That helped me visualize more what needs to happen when I forgive — I need to recognize that sin creates a real debt, which for us, walking in “The Way of Jesus”, implies that it’s not up to us to collect. Only Jesus is able to cover that debt. He reconciles us to himself and he works to transform hearts. He works for good even in bad circumstances. Only he has the perfect judgment and power to do this work..   

Jesus says that, to the extent that we forgive, he is able to forgive us. He is asking us to forgive as a way of life, not just as one time actions. The forgiveness Jesus asks for is not simple. It is not something we can do by willpower or by following a technique. I do know that what Jesus commands us to do, he will make it possible.

 Jesus tells us to pray,  “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” This is not a scattershot or individualist prayer. He tells us to forgive as an entire community of believers. Let’s pray for the insight and dependence on Jesus we need, so that we can be a people who forgive continually and well. 

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Forgiveness as a Way of life2024-02-25T18:10:43-07:00

Bringing Heaven to Earth

by Sherry Sommer

 

Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. . Matthew 6:10b NIV

 

Do what’s best—as above, so below. Matthew 6:10b  The Message

 

Jesus teaches us to pray that his will be “done on earth as it is in heaven”.  God wants  earth to be a mirror of heaven, albeit imperfect for now. He wants us to pray with this end in mind and for us to be partners in this work.    

This idea of bringing God’s kingdom can be used to justify oppression, destruction, violence, unjust laws, and oppression.  We can see this in history, and we can see it  today.  Jesus is not telling his disciples to use force or to create theocracies in his name. We need to use his ways  to partner with him in kingdom-bringing.  

Transformed lives

In order to bring God’s kingdom to earth, we need to start by being  transformed by him. This  process of transformation makes us more like Jesus, and more the person God created us to be.  As Paul says, when we are transformed by the Holy Spirit, we will better understand God’s will. 

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 NIV

Show up!

God’s fingerprints are on every one of us; He created us intending that each of us make their own unique contributions to bring his kingdom to earth. Each one of us has unique gifts and spheres of influence. Paul reminds us to show up as servants of God: 

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, Colossians 3:23 NIV


I also like this quote by Martin Luther: 

What else is all our work to God—whether in the fields, in the garden, in the city, in the house, in war, or in government—but just such a child’s performance, by which He wants to give His gifts in the fields, at home, and everywhere else? These are the masks of God, behind which He wants to remain concealed and do all things.

I like how Paul says “Whatever you do”.  My children attended an elementary school that prided itself on the education it delivered. Interestingly, the most beloved adults in the school were the janitorial staff and a woman who served lunch.  Pearline would always say a friendly hello to Samuel as she served him lunch, so he considered her a friend and ally. While a school would not think to advertise the excellence of their  support staff, these were the people who really connected with the kids and made a difference in the school climate.

Do everything in love:

 God is love and bringing his kingdom to earth needs to reflect his love:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. I Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV

 

God owns everything; he can accomplish anything; and, he will bind all wounds in his time. We don’t need to take the reins to try to get things done for him in our own strength. 

Let’s  pray that we will listen to the Holy Spirit’s promptings as we partner with God in bringing his kingdom to earth to honor him.  

 

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Bringing Heaven to Earth2024-02-10T13:03:25-07:00
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